We Told You

Some of you may have read the Scott Dance piece in the Baltimore Sun today and thought it sounded familiar:

The Luke Mill, the largest employer in this tiny town, has powered the economy in this corner of Appalachia for generations, producing paper for countless Campbell’s soup labels and glossy covers for National Geographic and Playboy.

Even as other factories in this stretch of Western Maryland have closed down, this mill has managed to survive.

That’s in part because the 10-story-high boiler deep inside the mill burns a sludge known as black liquor.

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The substance, a mix of caustic chemicals and wood waste left over from the papermaking process, was once pollution, a byproduct that fouled the rocky banks of the Potomac.

Now, Maryland calls it green energy.

It’s not a particularly clean form of energy. Burning black liquor releases carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that causes climate change.

But because it’s a waste product that’s being used to generate power, state legislators declared it a renewable energy source. So the paper mill gets millions of ratepayer dollars from a state program created to promote the greening of Maryland.

The subsidies were established in 2004 to help wind turbines, solar panels and other clean technologies compete with fossil fuels, which emit pollution that blankets the planet, melting polar ice, raising sea levels and making extreme weather more likely. The idea was to give a financial boost to alternative energy sources that are both clean and renewable, but expensive to develop.

But many of the facilities that receive the subsidies — trash incinerators, wood-burning “biomass” plants, and the paper mill in Luke — spew millions of pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, plus toxins that are harmful to people and the environment.

The subsidies earmarked for clean energy come from a fast-growing portion of Maryland electricity ratepayers’ bills. The payouts to carbon-emitting energy producers such as the Luke mill have totaled more than $100 million through 2015.

That probably has something to do with the fact that it is a familiar story. That’s because Red Maryland raised the issue of black liquor six  years when it wasn’t a problem under a Democratic governor:

Maryland’s “green” renewable portfolio standard (RPS) law may not be so green after all. According to the latest reports from the Maryland Public Service Commission, state utilities are fulfilling their RPS mandates mostly through the use of dirty energy sources like black liquor, a byproduct of the wood pulping process, and burning waste wood products.

Maryland’s RPS law mandates that state utilities must procure 20% of their retail electric sales from renewable energy by 2022. The law was developed to “recognize and develop the environmental [read global warming] and consumer benefits associated with a diversity of renewable energy supplies to serve Maryland.” Qualifying energy sources are divided into two tiers. Tier 1 sources include biomass such as black liquor and wood waste. Utilities comply with the mandate through the purchase of renewable energy credits (RECs), which is equal to one megawatt-hour of energy generated from a qualified renewable source, or an alternative compliance payment penalty.

Read the whole thing.

Incidentally, when I wrote about the hypocrisy of the environmental movement yesterday, this is partially what I was talking about. Because this is the exact kind of thing that Tom Fenton and his cronies are perfectly fine with. This is what they want to see…


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